Depression is a medical condition that is more serious than everyday sadness. It causes long-lasting symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to function. In children and adolescents, depression affects their ability to perform well in school and to develop and maintain relationships and is often accompanied by behavioural problems, substance abuse and other mental disorders, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Despite being the most common mental disorder worldwide, depression often goes unnoticed, usually because people are reluctant to discuss their symptoms. People may be concerned about the stigma of having a mental illness and may see their condition as a personal weakness rather than as a ‘real’ illness. Many people with depression also suffer from anxiety symptoms. In fact, anxiety symptoms may occur in up to 80% of people with depression. People with untreated depression clearly carry a high burden of personal suffering, they have a lower quality of life and suffer a higher risk of suicide. What’s more, depression not only affects the person with the disorder, but also the family, friends and colleagues around that person.
However, depression is a treatable condition and between 80% and 90% of people have a good response to treatment. Psychotherapy (counselling), medicines and other measures offer effective treatment of symptoms. Yet, two-thirds of people with depression who see a healthcare worker for routine care complain of physical symptoms, such as headache, back problems or chronic pain and the depression is missed. This module discusses depression and anxiety symptoms and how those affected by these disorders may present in the pharmacy. It is important to refer people with symptoms of possible depression and/or anxiety to the doctor for appropriate assessment and treatment. Once identified, it is important to offer support to those suffering with depression and to encourage them to persist with their treatment.